Tok Mat's FM role: 'Routine process, not about weakening Umno or empowering Zahid'

Mohd Faizul Haika Mat Khazi
Mohd Faizul Haika Mat Khazi
15 Dec 2023 10:10am
Zahid with deputy president Umno, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan. - FILE PIX
Zahid with deputy president Umno, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan. - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - Umno Veterans chairman Datuk Othman Desa has dismissed claims that the appointment of Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan as Foreign Minister is a political manoeuvre.

He said that it's a common practice in any government and within the Prime Minister's prerogative.

Othman expressed that the portfolio exchange for the Rembau MP is not a downgrade but rather enables Mohamad, also known as Tok Mat, to demonstrate his ability to manage Malaysia's foreign relations with other countries.

"I see the portfolio exchange as a common occurrence in the Cabinet; even Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was appointed as the Foreign Minister before being appointed as the Prime Minister following Dr Mahathir's sudden resignation in 2003.

"Therefore,Tok Mat's representation, shaping Malaysia's image globally, and his international capabilities are crucial for the future and political career of the Rembau Member of Parliament," he told Sinar.

He made these comments in response to a statement from a Bersatu leader claiming that the decision to appoint Mohamad as the Foreign Minister in the recent Cabinet reshuffle aims to weaken his position in Umno.

Bersatu Supreme Council member Datuk Wan Saiful Wan Jan claimed that the new position requires Mohamad to be abroad more often, allowing Zahid to solidify his position as Umno President.

According to Othman, there is no question of demotion, as when Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob became the Prime Minister, Mohamad and Zahid held no positions in the Cabinet.

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"Like Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, many thought he was suitable to be appointed as the Second Finance Minister, but the Prime Minister appointed the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Chief Executive Officer Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan to that position, while Johari was appointed as the new Plantation and Commodities Minister.

"The Prime Minister's and the public's perspectives, including political figures, are not the same as Pas, who claims that this Cabinet reshuffle aims to strengthen Anwar's position.

"They can say anything, but the Prime Minister's considerations are very clear in ensuring the political and economic stability of the country until the next elections," he said.

University Malaya Department of Syariah Politics, Academy of Islamic Studies senior lecturer Dr Muhammad Shamshinor Abdul Azzis shared a similar opinion.

He said that changing positions is expected in the Cabinet unless Mohamad, as the Umno Vice President, is removed from being a Cabinet member or demoted to Deputy Minister.

Shamshinor said he did not see the portfolio exchange as an organised effort to sideline or distance the former Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar from mainstream politics and Umno.

"I don't think Tok Mat's portfolio change from leading the Defence Ministry to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is related to any effort to block him from becoming the Umno President or Prime Minister in the future.

"The arrangement of Cabinet positions is done after discussions with members of the Cabinet and party leaders who are part of the Unity Government currently in control of Putrajaya," he said.